Black Sabbath, one of the greatest bands ever, was an act in transition as it entered the 1980s. Less than a year earlier they sacked their legendary lead singer Ozzy Osbourne and replaced him with equally great Ronnie James Dio, previously of Rainbow. The flailing former greats and the hungry vocalist reignited each others passion for Heavy Metal to create something incredible in Heaven and Hell (Vertigo/Warner Bros) The album not only gave the band a shot in the arm, but it also launched their second era with a bang, one their fans would never forget.
Although Tony Iommi had begun writing what would become the album while Ozzy was still in the band (there are demos with Ozzy singing on some songs out there), it really came together between Iommi and Dio. Considering that Geezer Butler missed some of the recording sessions and Bill Ward claims he was so drunk and depressed over Ozzy, that he flat out doesn’t recall the making of the album, that it was completed at all is miraculous.
With a fresh production from Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Jeff Beck), and a batch of inspired songs, Heaven And Hell is practically its very own greatest hits album. The entire album is a 10/10, but several songs like ‘Neon Nights’, ‘Children of The Sea’, the title track, ‘Die Young’, and ‘Lonely Is the Word’ and outright genre classics and are even known to non-metal fans. Iommi and Geezer brought new approaches to their songwriting that felt as new as the exciting decade they were starting together. They definitely brought back the dynamics of mid-era Sabbath that were lacking before Ronnie joined. Geoff Nicholls tasteful keyboards also added to the drama of the tracks. Dio’s vocals, up to the point, were the best of his career, and maybe still to this day. Inspired vocals and lyrics from Ronnie were just the medicine the flagging band needed.
Heaven and Hell was an immediate hit with critics and fans, something that had never happened in their career and maybe only a few times since. Even the album artwork of the smoking angels is iconic! This album has spawned almost as many covers as the Sabs’ 70s output to be sure. There is definitely an army of metal fans that feel like this album and Mob Rules are the best representation of the band. Regardless, the album is a masterpiece that continues to resonate with today’s fans, the vest-wearing beardos and new-age shieldmaidens throwing those horns who are “living for today, for tomorrow never comes….”